For many months, a year or so ago, I was scared to visit the doctor. Not because I feared an alarming diagnosis. I could never be afraid of my delightful and kindly general practitioner. Rather, I was afraid because my company, LLP, was fortunate enough, about four years ago, to win a contract to implement a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system for the company that owns the clinic. And now they were using it. So I was petrified of the administrators, not the medical staff.
Medicine is a big and complex business and it has to be run commercially. Appointments must be managed efficiently and bills must be produced promptly and accurately. This is what they wanted help with. So we sold them software and consulting to handle the scheduling of appointments and the generation of invoices, holding all the variations in price that depend on complex combinations of factors.
The implementation of our software took several months, and was not unlike the progress of an illness – good days, bad days, some pain from time to time, anxiety, progress, and then, eventually, the launch. So when the system went live, visiting the doctor became my chance to find out, incognito, what the end-users (amongst them the clinic’s receptionists) thought about it.
The difficulty was that I could see them struggling. They didn’t look happy with it at all.
As we all know, there’s a predictable double fall and rise of mood from the moment of software sale to the moment a system works well.
When a system is sold, expectations are at their highest. After a few weeks of system implementation and the realisation that packaged software systems can’t do everything, the mood plummets. But then, with workarounds and modifications, and as ‘go-live’ approaches, the mood lifts once more.
But then, when the system is live and things immediately go slightly wrong (as, sadly, they often do, however much training and testing you do) the mood declines again. Finally, step by step, bug by bug, day by day, as problems are solved and users get used to the new software, the mood improves again.
So, for a while I could see them struggling, and if I felt brave enough I would ask them about the system. They were kind. There was some problem with printing, they said, (system crashes in fact, when they clicked the Print button) and there were other things they didn’t love. But they soldiered on, even if without joy.
But now I’m not afraid. I went for some physiotherapy just yesterday and for the first time I heard those very consoling words, ‘It’s really great, so much better than the system we had before.’
You don’t often get the chance to hear an honest opinion from the end-users of a system if you’re the supplier, and in my profession we often feel reluctant to hear it. But in the end, it’s important to know, and this story had a happy ending. The system was responsive to treatment, and now it’s been pronounced fit.